Metro, Chicago, IL • Sept 30, 2010
One of my favorite albums of 2010 has been Relayted. It comes from Minnesota-based supergroup project Gayngs. And during their October tour stop in Chicago at Metro, I had the chance to see if the new album would be just as good live as it has been between my headphones.
Relayted features over 20 artists including Justin Vernon and Mike Noyce (Bon Iver), Zak Coulter and Adam Hurlburt (Solid Gold), Michael Lewis (Happy Apple/Andrew Bird) Ivan Rosebud (The Rosebuds), Brad Cook and Joe Westerlund (Megafaun), and Jake Luck (Leisure Birds), to name a few. The man at the helm of it all is Minnesota musician/producer Ryan Olson.
Relayted has a steady and beautifully subtle slow-burning groove to it, and I’ve loved swimming through its dark, gorgeous and mysterious mix of indie-R&B, folk, pop, dub-style electro beats, and funkified soul. If I were to compare it to something else I heard before, I would say that the individual ingredients recall elements of multiple genres. It’s somewhat of a sonic love child birthed from the musical DNA of Barry White, Genesis, Prince, Kid Cudi, and Massive Attack, and then injected with fresh takes on modern melodic, atmospheric, and jammy indie-rock.
Front to back, Olson and company find the right balance between entertaining and enlightening with romantic wisdom that’s humorous, wry, indigent and even sarcastic at times. Like I mentioned, it all sounded sweet and solid on album, but the true test was to experience it live. Would this indie-rock super group be able to pull it together triumphantly, or would the sum of the parts flop miserably, making fans hang their heads on their way home?
As expected, the stage at Metro was packed with players as Olson led the way backed by ten of Relayted‘s 24 contributing artists. They opened with the soulfully electronic and slow-grooving lead single “The Gaudy Side of Town.” Right from the start, it was nearly impossible to not crack a smile at the sight of Justin Vernon in a big, fuzzy, fur animal skin hat and cool black shades making his way into our hearts with a deft mix of natural and deftly massaged auto-tuned croon.
It was also equally impossible not to be swept up in the soft-rock and euphoric blending of sax, drums, bass, guitars, keys, and beat machines. During “Cry,” “No Sweat,” and right on through through to the final number “The Last Prom on Earth,” Gayngs took us to dark and wondrous places on the inside, while still making us smile blissfully on the outside. And if you ever wondered if auto-tune is just for lame commercial rap or crappy pop songs, guess again.
T-Pain and Justin Bieber should be shaking in their boots because the bold boys of Gayngs not only know how to woo a live crowd, they also know how to correctly use both auto-tune and a vocoder as powerful Viagra-style song enhancers and as hilarious side-show comedy weapons.
Without a doubt, Gayngs passed the live test in Chicago. What’s next? Well, it’s time for you to see them live, of course. They wrap up their current tour at Austin City Limits Festival, but keep an eye out for more dates this winter.